Transportation head resigns, focused on book career, family

AP News
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Posted: Jul 28, 2015 2:29 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's transportation secretary, who moonlighted as a novelist and was criticized for going on a book tour before an impending snowstorm, resigned abruptly Tuesday, saying he wanted to focus on his family and book career.

Former Secretary Tony Tata sent an email Tuesday morning to Transportation Department staff, listing his accomplishments during more than two years in office, including reducing wait times at the Division of Motor Vehicles and an agreement with environmental groups that allows construction of the Bonner Bridge to Hatteras Island to begin.

"While there is much more work to do, it is time for me to focus on personal and family matters as well as my passion for authorship," he said in the email.

When asked if Tata were available for comment, DOT spokesman Mike Charbonneau said Tata had already left the office and Chief Deputy Secretary Nick Tennyson was in place as acting secretary. Tata made $136,000 in 2014.

Gov. Pat McCrory praised Tata for his work. "Tony Tata has been a valuable partner in our efforts to reform and modernize North Carolina's transportation system," McCrory said in a news release.

The retired U.S. Army brigadier general stoked controversy earlier this year when he left on a book tour hours before a predicted storm coated much of the state in ice, making roads treacherous. Tata has routinely made appearances on cable television news shows to serve as a conservative political commentator.

He is also the author of several novels, his latest a thriller about a disgraced special-forces commando searching for an American traitor.

The Republican has also recently been widely rumored to be considering a run for Congress. WTVD reported in June that Tata addressed the issue in an email that said he was humbled to be asked to run for office. Tata never directly said he wouldn't run, only that he was committed to serving the citizens of North Carolina.

Before being appointed as transportation secretary, Tata served as superintendent of the Wake County schools for less than two years. He was fired in September 2012 by a board that cited a strained relationship with Tata.